Last week some friends and I toured the home/studio (Paisley Park) of the artist Prince. We waited outside patiently while a guide told us about the artist, his home, his studio and how he had built it with the intent of it being open to the public someday. After passing through a doorway where Prince’s glowing eyes were painted above and being told, “Prince is always watching…,” we entered a large, open, light filled space that was said to be a place where he felt the most comfortable. On one side was his private eating area and on the second floor was a bird cage housing two white doves (majesty and divinity) whose quiet cries were spilling into the space below.
Then to everyone’s surprise, the tour guide asked us to be quiet and to pay our respects to Prince – whose ashes were in a tiny purple box on a podium in the center of the room. I was surprised because I had anticipated seeing lots of purple during my tour (I was not disappointed) but had not anticipated standing next to Prince’s ashes.
As I stared down at this little purple box, a thought filled my heart...“That’s how we all end up…a heap of ashes in a little box.” Reflecting later, I had to be honest with myself about my own fear of dying – and worse yet – being forgotten. Prince will be remembered for a long time. He had an impressive property, a studio, a home, movies, an iconic super bowl performance and countless records to spark people’s memory of him. But what about me? What have I done? What will be left behind when I die? Will anyone remember me?
And then suddenly I remember a story of when a criminal on a cross turned to Jesus and said “Remember me when you come into your kingdom…” (Luke 23:42) I had never given much thought to that request from the criminal before, but now the Spirit was quietly whispering to me – that’s the key. Perhaps the criminal on the cross was afraid of being forgotten as well. Maybe that’s what motivated him to “act out” and live the kind of life that got him sentenced to death by the Roman authorities. Maybe if he couldn’t be remembered for being famous, he would settle for “infamous.”
I haven’t lived a life of crime, but when I look back over my motivations for doing some of the things I’ve done – mixed in there is an anxious fear of being forgotten. Sadly, I don’t know the names of my great-great-grandparents and one day my descendants probably won’t remember me either. That’s sad, but it’s ok. Because there is someone who will remember me. Someone who will remember my name and who I was. Someone who knows me and knows everything about me.
Lately whenever I feel anxiety about my own mortality and my place in the history books, I pray the prayer of a criminal, “Jesus, remember me…” and I can feel my fear drain away as I know deep down, he will.